WELCOME - North Davidson coach Mark Holcomb was happy that his team continued its unbeaten season. He was happy that the Black Knights won their first playoff game in a decade.
But he wasn't exactly thrilled with how his squad played overall in their 45-17 victory against a pesky Western Guilford squad in the opening round of the 4-A state playoffs.
The undefeated Black Knights fell behind early, gave up several huge plays on kickoffs returns and didn't put away the four-win Hornets until the fourth quarter.
"We didn't play real well at all," North Davidson coach Mark Holcomb said. The score shows a little bit different, but our guys have to understand how we're capable of playing. We're happy to get the playoff win. It's been three centuries since we've won one, but we've got a long way to go."
It was over when...North Davidson running back Ketrick Eller scored on the first play of the fourth quarter. Eller took a swing pass from Black Knights' quarterback Chase Mitchell, made a cut and shot through the Western Guilford defense for a 33-yard touchdown to stretch the lead to 38-17 with 11:49 remaining in the game. The Hornets were able to mount a drive after Eller's touchdown, but were stopped on a fourth-and-short inside the Black Knights' 45-yard line. Conlee Hunter capped off the scoring with his second touchdown of the game midway through the fourth.
Turning point No. 1 -
With the score tied 7-7 early in the second quarter, Western Guilford was mounting a drive and facing a third-and-9 at its own 44-yard line. Quarterback Reid Flippin targeted go-to receiver Kevin Gehsman on a slant in the middle of the field. Gehsman was open and the pass was on target, but instead of hooking up for a key first down, Flippin's throw drilled the umpire in the middle of the field. North Davidson took over following a punt and scored on its ensuing drive, capped off by 33-yard run off the right side by Eller that gave the Black Knights a 14-7 lead.
Two big defensive plays -
The Hornets got a huge lift following Eller's touchdown when Tray Miller returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards down to North Davidson's 16-yard line. But Western Guilford wouldn't get any closer. On a third-and-8, Flippin faked a jet sweep handoff to Miller, looked down the field but went back to his running back for a swing pass. Miller snagged the pass but was immediately drilled by defensive back Garland McKoy for a short loss. The Hornets missed a field goal one play later, North Davidson took over and pushed its advantage to two scores when Mitchell found Ashton Phillips in the endzone on an 22-yard slant on third-and-long on the following drive.
Western Guilford was threatening to tighten up the game midway through the third quarter inside the Black Knights' 10-yard line, and trailing 24-10 but facing fourth down after a sack by highly-touted defensive end Shy Tuttle. On fourth down, the Black Knights blitzed up the middle, Flippin rushed his throw and defensive back Payton Boles intercepted the pass at the goalline.
That defensive stop started a drive that ended with a Shy Tuttle 1-yard touchdown run after change-of-pace quarterback Tevin Tuttle led the team down the field. Western Guilford was able to slice into the North Davidson lead but trailed by double-digits for the entire second half.
Western Guilford 07 03 07 00 17
North Davidson 00 21 10 14 45
WG - Kevin Gehsman 18 pass from Reid Flippin (Gehsman kick) 1:15
ND - Conlee Hunter 5 run (Spencer Landfried kick) 11:27
ND - Ketrick Eller 33 run (Landfried kick) 6:44
ND - Ashton Phillips 22 pass from Chase Mitchell (Landfried kick) 2:42
WG - Gehsman 25 field goal 0:00
ND - Landfried 33 field goal 8:58
ND - Shy Tuttle 1 run (Landfried kick) 1:20
WG - Dorion Anderson 38 pass from Flippin (Gehsman kick) 0:26
ND - Eller 33 pass from Mitchell (Landfried kick) 11:49
ND - Hunter 4 run (Landfried kick) 6:56